Doctor plays major role in ministers' training U-turn

Doctor: successfully influenced Government policy

Doctor magazine played a central role in the Government’s U-turn on training for GPs last week after the title obtained a leaked letter detailing cuts.

Senior reporter Rachel Solotti received a tip-off and got hold of a letter which said the Government was planning to cut funding for GP training by £100m.

The magazine ran the story, saying the move had already forced many post-graduate deaneries, the bodies which run the GP training, to slash the number of trainee posts for this year – at a time when the NHS is suffering its biggest staffing crisis in years.

The British Medical Association’s General Practitioners’ Committee met last Thursday after the story was published and issued a statement condemning the move.

The Government announced a U-turn the same day and revealed plans to ensure that deaneries had enough funding to avoid having to make cuts to the training posts.

Doctor is expected to carry a followup this week with another splash claiming that the U-turn will be too late to solve the problems caused by the cuts in the number of summer intakes. According to the magazine, many deaneries have already turned away high-quality candidates.

Simon Ebbett, news editor on Doctor, said that he had received a call from a Department of Health source saying ministers were taking the response seriously and, when the impact of the move was revealed in Doctor, they decided that the cuts should not go ahead.

Ebbett said that although the story had been covered in the national press, the magazine’s initial scoop had played a key role in the U-turn. “This has probably been one of the best examples we have ever seen of Doctor influencing Government policy. Our story hit readers’ desks on Thursday morning and by the afternoon ministers had done a U-turn,” he said.

Editor Charles Cresswell added: “Rachel did a great job on uncovering a story the Government was trying to bury.”

By Ruth Addicott

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